Welcome, Mr Mayor!

Welcome, Mr Mayor!

It’s an odd little ceremony which took place in the city’s Abbey on Saturday morning.

A 500-year-old building which was temporarily closed to the general public – aka milling tourists – while a group of costumed people called The Charter Trustees elected the 791st Mayor of Bath.

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In comes the procession for the start of the ceremony. It’s headed by the outgoing Mayor, Cllr Ian Gilchrist.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones takes on a ceremonial role as First Citizen in an ‘office’ that can be traced back to 1230.

Once the Mayor held the keys to the city’s four gates – today he or she is expected to work as an ‘Ambassador for Bath’ – a non-political role promoting the city, nationally and internationally, and supporting the local community.

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This is a meeting of the Charter Trustees as well of course. Here’s the outgoing Mayor Cllr Ian Gilchrist getting down to business. When the meeting began he was still Chairman

The Charter Trustees are the 32 councillors elected to represent the wards in the city on Bath and North East Somerset Council.

They meet four times a year and annually elect one of their number to be their Chairman and Mayor – along with a Vice Chairman and Deputy Mayor.

This year those joint roles will be filled by Cllr Anthony Clarke.

This meeting is open to the general public and held in Bath Abbey. The Trustees and some ‘distinguished’ guests walk in – and out – in procession.

Many have ceremonial robes and are proceeded by mace and sword bearers – carrying some of the historic civic regalia.

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Maces and ceremonial sword ‘resting up’ during the proceedings.

These Bath councillors maintain the traditions and functions of the Mayor and hold other historic and ceremonial property including 27 royal charters issued by monarchs such as Richard the Lionheart and Elizabeth the First.

As the great West Doors were opened for everyone to parade out – and onto the Guildhall for an informal first meeting with the new Mayor – Bath’s tourists swarmed around the entrance – wondering exactly what this slightly strange, costumed event was all about.

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Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse – second in from the right – was one of the invited guests.

I cannot exactly say the Abbey was overwhelmed by citizens – keen to support this historic event. Only one line of pews were full – before the people making up the procession filled another.

You do have the feeling of sitting in on a private committee meeting where even the passing of the Mayor’s ceremonial robes from one councillor to another is done in a  room away from the proceedings.

Maybe a symbolic passing of the chain of office could be done in public?

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Out of the ‘robing room’ emerges the new Mayor Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones with his deputy Cllr Anthony Clark behind him.

Speeches are made by incoming and outgoing Mayors and Deputies – with more praise for noble doings made by other councillors proposing and seconding elections and noting the achievement of those who had served in mayoral roles during the past year.

I glanced up to spot a memorial tablet on the Abbey wall which noted the burial in the church of the city’s most famous ‘Master of Ceremonies’  Richard ‘Beau’ Nash.

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Beau Nash’s memorial tablet. Bath’s best-known Master of Ceremonies.

We need an MC like him today –  to mastermind the ‘Mayor Making’ ceremony and maybe encourage more people to come and witness proceedings which could be more crafted towards a modern audience.

Followers of Bath Newseum will know that l am a keen supporter of bringing back a flag for Bath. I want to see the city’s historic coat of arms flying above our public buildings.

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I have been told the flag now only represents the Mayor but as his office is in the Guildhall – and the Mayor Making ceremony was held in Bath Abbey – it was a shame not to see the flag fluttering on either one of those buildings.

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It’s the Abbey’s own flag above the church for Mayor Making.

B&NES can argue it’s the cost of erecting and taking down a flag. They have to pay an outsider to do both! Time for our public body to arrange an ‘insider’ to carry out this operation at less expense. We have National Days to celebrate and foreign dignitaries to welcome. Flags could be used to help do this.

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Honorary Alderman Dave Dixon of Minuteman Press in Bath ‘printed’ me out a copy of the city’s flag. The shield shows symbols for the city wall and its waters – hot and cold. It’s Roman name – Aquae Sulis (waters of Sulis) and the crown for the crowning of Edgar – the first king of a united England – here in the city. The lion and bear stand of oak leaves and acorns to represent the legend of Bladud – Celtic monarch of the city and legendary King of the Britons .

Let me know your thoughts.

Meanwhile, new Mayors are expected to have ‘themes’ for their year of office and Cllr Anketell-Jones has chosen the environment.

It’s a good non-political subject for him to get his teeth into and l think he is going to be quite active in promoting it too.

Now for some of your comments!

Via Facebook.

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Raise a flag​ for Bath

Raise a flag​ for Bath

Back in the 18th century, when Thomas Baldwin built the Guildhall, Bath was very much a city in its own right. The current Bath-stone building replaced a Stuart Guildhall, which itself replaced an earlier Tudor structure.

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The Bath Guildhall

For centuries this has been the town hall and the residence of the Mayor of Bath. The current one – Cllr Ian Gilchrist – became the 790th mayor of the city when he was elected last June.

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The Mayor of Bath, Cllr Ian Gilchrist.

Bath was made a County Borough in 1889 and remained a city council until the demise of Avon and the arrival of the B&NES authority in 1996.

The Mayor is just a figurehead now – an ambassador for Bath – a civic leader with no real power but a rallying point for those with pride in their city.

A few months ago l was wonder why Bath didn’t have its own flag. You’ll see a Union flag and a rather limp logo for B&NES fluttering in the breeze above the city but – though there is a spare pole – no city flag.

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The empty flagpole on the Guildhall roof.

A bit of digging and l discover there is a flag – bearing the city’s coat of arms – but as the Guildhall is now the town hall for the whole of Bath and North East Somerset – it wouldn’t be appropriate to fly it above the building.

Unofficially, l have been told it is now regarded as the Mayor of Bath’s flag but – as the Mayor’s Parlour is STILL housed in the Guildhall – why can’t it fly on the roof in his ( or her) name?

Asking Bath Abbey to fly it on the day that the Mayor Making ceremony is happening within is also a good idea!

 

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Bath Abbey

 

I don’t think it is a bad thing to encourage people to take pride in the city of Bath. Indeed l have set out to fly the flag on my own flagpole at home.

I went to see Mr David Dixon at Minuteman Press in Walcot Street – himself a former councillor and now Honary Alderman – who very kindly ran me a little number from his stored image of the city’s coat of arms.

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Hon Alderman David Dixon holding the ‘official’ City of Bath flag he ‘ran off’ for me at Minuteman Press.

I am told you can’t copyright this flag because there are so many versions of the city’s coat of arms decorating various parts of the city – but l was also told you need the permission of the Mayor and his fellow Charter Trustees if you want to hoist your own version on high.

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This one is a bit different.

I sent an email a few weeks ago and am waiting to hear back.

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Another version.

Many Batb visitors buy souvenir flags when they are in the city. I am also hoping there might be a City of Bath flag on the racks soon for them to take away.

The version l have was featured in a previous article on Bath Newseum. Here is the text.

“You’ll come across various visual interpretations of Bath’s coat of arms around the city but the one l am showing you is based on the earliest depiction from 1568 in William Smith’s Particular Description of England – now in the British Museum.

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The official one!

The ownership of the crest is actually unclear as there is no longer a Bath City Council – the city is now part of a unitary authority which does not display the crest on its documents or website.

Let’s take you through the coat of arms from bottom to top.

The motto – Aqua Sulis or Waters of Sulus – is the Roman name for Bath.

A lion and a bear hold up the shield and stand on oak branches with acorns which are linked to King Bladud – the legendary founder of Bath – and the man feeding his pigs acorns when they ran off to discover the steaming mud and thermal waters of the hot springs.

The lion stands for bravery, valour, strength and royalty. The bear for strength, cunning and ferocity in the protection of one’s kindred.

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Another version.

The shield depicts the town wall, the mineral springs and River Avon and the sword of St Paul – one of the patron saints of Bath Abbey – which is also the town’s parish church.

The lion and bear also display the crossed sword and keys – representing both patron saints. St Peter – who held the keys to the kingdom of Heaven – shares the protection of the Abbey with St Paul.

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And another version

Above them, the crown of King Edgar – first king of all England – is held aloft by the arms of St Dunstan who performed his coronation in Bath in 973 AD.”

 

 

 

Water disappointment.

Water disappointment.

Once every week l join other volunteers who gather to show our visitors – and some locals – around this great city of Bath.

We’re officially members of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – about 85 people who turn out in all weathers, throughout the year and accept no fee or tip.

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Our Tuesday morning gathering – outside the Pump Room at 10.30 am.

Our Tueasday morning group of five – in high season – can divide up to one hundred people between us for a two-hour tour – on foot – of this World Heritage status city.

It follows that many have a keen interest in local history and some have developed that in print. Fellow guide and local historian Colin Fisher is one of them.

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Colin Fisher’s book on Stefano Pieroni – published by Akeman Press in 2014.

Back in 2014, he published a book about an Italian immigrant to Bath called Signor Stefano Vallerio Pieroni who lived here from 1848 until his death in 1900.

Never heard of him? That must be true for most people. There’s plenty of architectural evidence remaining of the work of celebrity locals like John Wood and son but little to show for the efforts of this itinerant seller of plaster figures who set up shop in his adopted home.

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What remains of Pieroni’s fountain alongside Bog Island.

Most people getting off the coaches around Terrace Walk will spare little more than a glance at the modest little fountain alongside the abandoned underground loos that have given the Bog Island nickname to this location. Indeed – l am sure there are many arriving who wished they were still working – but that’s another story.

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Pieroni’s re-modelled fountain in Stall Street with Prince Bladud on top. © Christopher Wheeler

This was originally located at the Roman Bath’s end of Bath Street and – though topped now with an urn – was originally crowned with a statue of King Bladud, the legendary Celtic founder of Bath. That statue is now in Parade Gardens – keeping company with a stone pig.

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Prince Bladud is now in Parade Gardens.

If you don’t know the story already – a thousand years before the Romans came to Bath Prince Bladud – thrown out of his father’s kingdom as he’d caught leprosy on a trip to Greece –  was sitting on a local hillside feeding acorns to his flock of pigs.

Suddenly the animals broke away – only to run down the slopes and discover the thermal waters. They had caught leprosy off their royal swine herdsman minder and the waters cured it – after a bit of rolling in the hot mud. They did the same for the prince’s affliction.

Those health-giving qualities have been promoted ever since – whether you were a Roman soldier, medieval merchant, Georgian aristocrat or Victorian visiting professional.

Signor Pieroni was called in to re-model a controversial fountain that had only been commissioned three years previously at its original Stall Street location.

From time to time Bath develops a ‘yearning’ for fountain building. I can see why – l have a bee in my own bonnet today – about the lack of public ways of celebrating our natural gift of gushing springs – both hot and cold.

In the 1850’s you could describe the urge to do something grand as fountain mania. One proposal wanted a series of fountains cascading down from Lansdown, with fountains in St James’s Square, in front of the Royal Crescent and near the obelisk in Royal Victoria Park.

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Royal Crescent

This got whittled down to putting something in the city centre that would dispense and promote Bath’s famous ‘health-giving’ hot mineral waters.

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The original Tite Mineral Water Fountain in Stall Street. © BathinTime http://www.bathintime.co.uk

I rather like the look of the Tite Mineral Water Fountain of 1856 but the ‘powers that be’ did not and Signor Pieroni was called in to help remodel it.

Putting King Bladud on top went down well with most Bathonians. When you’re ‘pushing’ the many delights of a Georgian-dressed spa town a little fable – viewed through the mists of time (and the steam from the hot water) – goes a long way.

Pieroni’s Stall Street fountain was – and still is – part of the city’s dilemma about fountains. It cannot make its mind up about whether they should be promoted or not.

Though – in its original location – it was one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – problems with the supply of mineral water and maintenance costs condemned it to a dry and ivy-covered future.

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A postcard view of the ivy-covered fountain in Stall Street in 1915.

The fountain enclosure was filled with potted plants, Bladud removed to a private garden and an urn put in his place. A jump in time to 1989 and finally the fountain was dismantled, repaired, cleaned and re-erected on its present site on Bog Island – between Terrace Walk and Parade Gardens.

The statue was moved to Parade Gardens where the legend lives on – beside the fast flowing waters of the Celtic-named River Avon (Afon).

I have recently been down to look at what is left of Pieroni’s original celebration-in-stone of Bath’s sparkling waters and am sorry to say it is starting to crumble.

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More crumbling stonework about to fall?

There was fallen masonry lying near the modest fountain enclosure and its condition must raise concern within our currently cash-strapped council.

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I took author Colin Fisher to have a look and asked him what he thought.

 

Meanwhile, another of Bath’s underwhelming fountains continues to languish and disintegrate. The Laura Place  ‘ashtray’ was recently filled for its seasonal start-up but no water has flowed since.

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Filled but not functioning?

Has the pump broken down again? The fountain basin bears more chips and evidence that a screw and raw plug may have contributed to one loss of masonry.

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Looks like the screw and raw plug may have contributed to this disintegration.

Is this another fountain bowl destined to be filled with flowers?

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More chipping on the Laura Place fountain.

We’re never going to see a Trevi fountain in Bath l know, but l still feel developers should be encouraged to include water in their commercial endeavours.

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A day in the ‘life-cycle’ of a much-abused fountain.

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Nothing original about this vandalism. It wrecks havoc with the pump which the ratepayer has to pay to repair or replace.

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Another Laura Place fountain re-interpretation.

Why no fountain in Southgate or no feature in the re-modelled Saw Close – or even down at Riverside?

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The Saw Close re-modelling.

Who will save Pieroni’s Fountain and rescue the poor specimen in Laura Place? When will Bath wake up to its watery heritage?

In the meantime, while Bishop King had visions of a ladder to Heaven while asleep in the city – l will dream of more earthly matters. A little water-filled reminder of Signor Pieroni’s homeland.

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The Trevi Fountain in Rome. © ItalyGuides.It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitching it differently.

Pitching it differently.

So what’s the gossip – this Friday, September 29th. Well for starters, l am hearing all those Christmas Market regulars who have grown accustomed to the same pitch each year have just had a bit of a shock.

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Part of last year’s Christmas Market

They are being moved around bit. I think things got confused with work alongside the Abbey and the possibility of structural work in York Street. So its a slightly different street plan.

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Stalls around the Abbey this year.

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Stalls in Bath Street are extended and there seems to be a Zone 2 in Southgate Street.

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Here’s the whole planned layout.

Meanwhile with the Christmas Market in mind – the scaffolding company responsible for the work on the old Empire Hotel has been told the poles can’t come down until after the Christmas business is finished around the now luxury block of apartments.

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So the scaffolding stays into the New Year?

Seems there’s no room – with safety in mind – for the dismantling teams and their lorries.

A few years ago much money was raised  by auctioning the Bladud’s pigs that were dotted around the city. One was in place outside Bath Abbey until quite recently.

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One of those pigs that raised so much for charity.

I am hearing there is a possibility of another set of colourful street creatures. This time owls.

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Bath’s springs were dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sulis which the Romans identified with their own goddess Minerva. Her greek counterpart is Athena who was often depicted with an owl – symbol of wisdom.

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The pediment of the temple to Sulis Minerva with its Gorgon head – also contains the head of a tiny owl. It’s in the bottom right hand corner of the piece of stone with the Gorgon’s head.. The rest is missing but it was almost certainly perched on top of another helmet.

Bath to lead way on new public art work.

Bath to lead way on new public art work.

Compared to other cities l think it fair to say Bath doesn’t have much in the way of figurative public sculpture. While, what is does have isn’t exactly in the public realm.

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Prince Bladud in Parade Gardens

If you are a visitor, you have to pay to go see the likes of Prince Bladud and his pig in Parade Gardens or a diminutive Mozart – while the former Empress of India, Queen Victoria, has been placed half way up the exterior wall of the Victoria Art Gallery.

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Queen Victoria’s niche at the Victoria Art Gallery

Her Majesty actually visited Bath – as eleven year old Princess Victoria – to open Royal Victoria Park!

Not before time, moves are afoot to honour another Bath celebrity. No – it’s not a life-size figure of Beau Nash or Jane Austen. While l know Chaucer’s Wife of Bath should get a plinth to stand on – it’s not her either.

I am talking Adelard of Bath – a medieval scholar and England’s first scientist – who is the subject of a conference this coming week-end (Saturday, September 30th from 2 until 5pm) at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square.

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You can buy tickets through Bath Box Office – and l think there might also be some left to buy at the door.

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This 12th century English natural philosopher – and his connections to Bath- may not be too familiar to most Bathonians – indeed no one knows what he looked like – so Bath Newseum talked to the man in charge of this week-end’s symposium – Michael Davis.

Find out more about Adelard on the BRSLI website – www.brsli.org

Sign of the times!

Sign of the times!

Larkhall is one Bath community that can still proudly boast that it has three pubs along its ‘main road’ and one of them – the Bladud’s Head – has been making some interesting discoveries whilst doing major external renovations.

The Bladud's Head in Larkhall

The Bladud’s Head in Larkhall

It’s also handy having local artist Pete Cashman as one of your regulars when it comes to making a feature out of some ‘hidden’ details that were found beneath the old paint-work.

Artist, Pete Cashman outside the Bladud's Head

Artist, Pete Cashman outside the Bladud’s Head

Pete has restored writing on the side of the building from nothing more than a ‘shadow’ imprint of the original ‘official notice’ which he thinks may date to the mid 1800’s.

Whilst on the corner edge – a Harlequin-styled diamond pattern is glowing again under his stead hand and delicate brushwork.

The 'licensed to sell' sign!

The ‘licensed to sell’ sign!

He thinks it was a pattern that may have acted as a warning to anyone who didn’t realise they were close enough to this hard-edged corner of the building and in danger of banging their head.

The diamond-patterned 'warning' sign!

The diamond-patterned ‘warning’ sign!

Pete has already made his mark at the pub. He did the artwork on the pub’s new Bladud’s Head sign which hangs out front.

The ancient and legendary King of Bath’s features, he says, are taken from an old coin the landlord has in his possession.

The new pub sign!

The new pub sign!

While l was taking shots a local lady passed by and stopped to tell us the pub was once a line of cottages and she remembers two of them originally licenced to sell alcohol.

Any other memories of this Larkhall feature would be gratefully received by the Virtual Museum.

Hidden doors, street art and a ‘king’ gets his sign back!

Hidden doors, street art and a ‘king’ gets his sign back!

What secret do these Sydney Gardens shrubs contain?

What secret do these Sydney Gardens shrubs contain?

I often cycle in from Larkhall along the Kennet and Avon Canal and down into the city through Sydney Gardens. I had pedaled past two clumps of bushes – across the road from the entrance facing the Spa Macdonald Hotel – many times but never noticed the sunken doors almost hidden within.

I had heard that air-raid shelters were dug in this park and Queen’s Square so assumed that is what the doors led to, but a chat with a park-keeper suggested a different use.

He told me they led to a huge underground reservoir of water which fed Bathwick. Can anyone elaborate?

Cutting back the laurel.

Cutting back the laurel.

Elsewhere in the park they have been radically cutting down some of the laurel and certainly letting light in!

While on my bike – but taking a different route – l love the little line of terraced late Georgian? properties in Walcot Street – on the same side as The Bell.

The little terrace in Walcot Street.

The little terrace in Walcot Street.

Two of them still have their original small panes of glass set within the pretty Venetian windows facing the road.

Original panes of glass in the venetian window.

Original panes of glass in the venetian window.

Now on a completely different subject, here’s food for thought – over in Bristol on buildings awaiting redevelopment – lots of examples of ‘street art’.

Bristol urban street art.

Bristol urban street art.

Real urban visual energy – many say – but not all. Should we be doing the same thing on the end of this empty office block in Charles Street. It might speed up its re-development after all!

Could buildings like this one exhibit street art too?

Could buildings like this one in Bath exhibit street art too?

One final thing – which l keep forgetting to do – and that is to  congratulate the landlord of the Bladud’s  Head at Larkhall for putting a new sign – featuring the mythical king – back up outside!

A new illustrated sign outside the Bladdud's Head in Larkhall.

A new illustrated sign outside the Bladud’s Head in Larkhall.